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Sex Crimes Not Uncommon On Bay Area Public Transit

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - Nearly 100 sex crimes were reported on three major Bay Area transit systems last year, and some fear the actual annual number of incidents may be much higher.

Police documented 95 sex crimes in Bay Area Rapid Transit, San Francisco MUNI and Alameda County Transit in 2011. That included 35 indecent exposure cases, 25 cases of sexual battery and the remainder unwanted lewd behavior. Police reported 40 arrests.

Most of the cases were on BART - 76 sex crimes, with arrests in half of them. BART officials pointed to the larger number of riders and the potential fear of coming forward on smaller lines as potential explanations for the higher number of reports on the system.

MUNI logged 15 sex crimes, most for sexual battery.

Last fall, a MUNI driver was fired after the transit agency investigated complaints he sexually harassed a 13-year-old female passenger. MUNI officials said they urge crime victims to come forward.

"Please text to our anonymous tip line," said spokesman Paul Rose. "Please let the operator know or call police. The only way we can respond is if we know about it."

Some who study sex crimes on public transit say the numbers are vastly underreported. BART officials said that is possible.

"Sometimes people just want to get on with their day. They don't want to wait for police or stick around for prosecution," said BART officer Era Jenkins.

BART police said, unlike other transit agencies, it has a unique law enforcement tool - a detective who tackles sex crimes full-time. With connections to the district attorney and corrections officers, the BART police can track suspects who are registered sex offenders.

"They can look up their GPS monitoring location during that specific time so he can use video surveillance" to track who is in the area, said Jenkins.

To report a sex crime on public transit, you can notify the driver or call 911. On BART, you can also tell the station agent or any BART employee.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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